Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

Teacher-Child Relationship, Parenting, and Growth in Likelihood and Severity of Physical Aggression in the Early School Years

Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

Teacher-Child Relationship, Parenting, and Growth in Likelihood and Severity of Physical Aggression in the Early School Years

Article excerpt

Entry into school is an important transition for children (Sroufe, Egeland, Carlson, & Collins, 2005), not least due to the important new social influences provided formally and informally by schools. Research has shown that the relationships forged between children and teachers hold the potential to contribute to children's developmental health and well-being (Pianta, 1999). Both the degree of closeness and the degree of conflict within the relationship predict children's subsequent behavior problems (Doumen et al., 2008; Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Jerome, Hamre, & Pianta, 2008; Ladd & Burgess, 1999; O'Connor, Dearing, & Collins, 2011; Pianta, Steinberg, & Rollins, 1995). The results of these studies suggest that the quality of relationship that children have with their teachers plays a distinct role in children's adaptation to school and their well-being.

However, given that some studies have found that this relationship may mirror the child's relationship with his or her parents (Birch & Ladd, 1997; Pianta, 1999), it is essential to include data reflecting the quality of parenting in testing the teacher-child relationship as a distinct developmental issue (Schuengel, 2012). If children bring their family-derived relationship attachment schema with them to their new relationships (e.g., Buyse, Verschueren, &Doumen, 2011; Koomen & Hoeksma, 2003), the teacher-child relationship may simply be an extension of the parent-child relationship (Davis, 2003) and hence epiphenomenal to children's social development.

Only a handful of studies on children's aggression have addressed both parenting and teacher-child relationship variables simultaneously; those that have suggest that the latter plays a distinct role from parenting. Meehan, Hughes, and Cavell (2003) found that teacher ratings of support to children, but not negative parenting, predicted teacher-rated aggression in the second and third grades. Teacher support, however, did not predict peer ratings of aggression, leaving open concerns of shared-source variance. Two studies by Silver, Measelle, Armstrong, and Essex (2005, 2010), which also used teacher ratings of externalizing problems between kindergarten and fifth grade, found that teacher-child closeness and conflict predicted children's externalizing problems over and above any influence of negative parenting, but the reliance on teacher ratings of disruptive behavior again raises concerns that shared-source variance may have biased estimates in favor of teacher predictors.

Mostrecently, O'Connor, Collins, and Suppléé (2012), while controlling for maternal attachment, examined teacher-child relationship latent class trajectories as predictors of parent-rated externalizing problems. Teacher-child conflict trajectory membership (between prekindergarten and fifth grade) predicted children's externalizing problems at fifth grade, above and beyond insecure maternal attachment at age 3, which was also a significant, albeit a weak, predictor. Although examining only attachment at 3 years may have biased the results in favor of teacher-child relationships, this study suggests that both parenting and teacher-child relationships may play a unique role in determining children's behavioral development. However, their respective importance may fluctuate with children's age. In addition, both parenting and teacher-child relationships might influence each other over time such that one dimension may still contribute to children's development but indirectly through its influence on the other dimension in accordance with a transactional process (e.g., Pianta, 1999; Sameroff, 2009). Hence, a concurrent measurement of parenting and teacher-child relationship within a longitudinal framework is needed to provide a fair test of the relative influence of parental and teacher relationship on young children's aggression.

Parents and Teachers as Distinct, Dynamic Socializing Agents

Pianta's (1999) developmental systems theory proposed that both the teacher-child and parent-child relationships are inherently dynamic and reciprocating. …

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